The first locally manufactured Jeep Compass has rolled out of the assembly line at FCA India's Ranjangaon plant. Kevin Flynn, president and MD, FCA India, speaks to Shapur Kotwal and Amit Panday.
Will the Compass be the first of many more models?
What the Compass does is allow us to bring a platform to the (Pune) plant, which in turn brings a lot of opportunities for us. It also gives a lot of flexibility. It equips us not only for this chapter but also for the next chapter of the story.
This is an important step for us as an organisation. This project clearly gives us the scope to do a lot more than we’ve ever been able to do in the past. This level of investment doesn’t go for a one-horse wonder. This is, undoubtedly, the start of a different chapter and a different beginning for us.
Will there be platform sharing with sister brand Fiat?
I think that opportunity exists for the very nature of that platform coming into the plant. How we exploit that and how we find the opportunities for that is something we continue to work on. We have our own quest to find the right solution for the Fiat portfolio.
If we look at the Fiat portfolio, we understand that it is at a certain point in its lifecycle, a very mature point in its lifecycle. But for the moment we are only focusing on the Jeep Compass, which is a product at the beginning of its lifecycle. It is up to us as to how do we manage those portfolios. Undoubtedly, the investment in the plant gives us a far broader opportunity for product development.
SUVs are one of the fast-growing segments in the Indian passenger vehicle market. While we understand that the Jeep Compass will be positioned in the C category of cars, what are the possible sweet spots within the current SUV market in India?
I think we have found one to start with. I think over the next five years you are going to see a (big) change in the dynamics of the SUV segment in India. If you look at what is happening in other global markets, particularly when you compare them with India, the way it is developing, the terrain here and also the lifestyle, SUVs are such a natural choice.
If you are looking to purchase a vehicle with the appeal of an SUV over, say, a sedan, it’s just going to move into an SUV market. Factors such as flexibility, sense of adventure, right driving positions, and the competence of dealing with different terrains are all making way for the SUV market.
The difference here though is the fact that in a lot of cases a number of car companies have got cars that look like SUVs because of their driving positions and their stance. That doesn’t mean that they have the capability of what makes a real SUV. The difference here is that this is a Jeep. If we have a Jeep, it has to have capabilities. That’s in the DNA of what we are. There are origins and elements in the DNA of this car that can go back (in history). What made a Willys a Willys is still important for us. So we have a vehicle of a modern-day era that actually has high levels of capabilities and competence.
Has the backend operation begun training servicemen to prepare for the aftersales for the Jeep Compass?
Absolutely. As we move into the Jeep era, we are also launching Mopar — our aftersales competence model. The reason we are doing that is we want to set benchmarks, which can make sure that Jeep customers have the faith and belief in what we are doing, and our Fiat customers see that we have actually migrated to another level of care competence for components, technical capabilities and responsiveness.
We are seeing quite a dramatic change in how we operate, what we operate and the appeal of doing so in the marketplace. So Mopar takes over now and we are going through a whole new programme of development with our technicians and other stakeholders. It opens up new opportunities for us and we will embrace those opportunities.
Also read: India to play key role in FCA’s global Jeep growth plan